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To Be Happy, Marriage Matters More than Career

New York Times columnist David Brooks writes:

When I’m around young adults I like to ask them how they are thinking about the big commitments in their lives: what career to go into, where to live, whom to marry. Most of them have thought a lot about their career plans. But my impression is that many have not thought a lot about how marriage will fit into their lives.

The common operating assumption seems to be that professional life is at the core of life and that marriage would be something nice to add on top sometime down the road. It’s not that people are against marriage. Today, as in the past, a vast majority of Americans would like to tie the knot someday. It’s just that it’s not exactly top of mind.

Partly as a result of these attitudes, there is less marriage in America today. The marriage rate is close to the lowest level in American history. For example, in 1980, only 6% of 40-year-olds had never been married. As of 2021, 25% of 40-year-olds have never been married.

As Brad Wilcox writes in his vitally important book, Get Married:

Marital quality is, far and away, the top predictor I have run across of life satisfaction in America. Specifically, the odds that men and women say they are “very happy” with their lives are a staggering 545% higher for those who are very happily married, compared to peers who are not married or who are less than very happy in their marriages.

When it comes to predicting overall happiness, a good marriage is far more important than how much education you get, how much money you make, how often you have sex, and, yes, even how satisfied you are with your work.

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